RISING BURDEN OF BEING NIGERIAN
YEARS back Andrew, a television character, in a public service message, said he was checking out of Nigeria. His main point was that infrastructure had collapsed and things looked hopeless. There are more Andrews today and things have worsened.
Government used that message to plead with Nigerians to remain in their country. Months into the campaign, Andrew checked right back! Today, he would be reminded that he had 'no other country but Nigeria'. Nigerians have more reasons today to check out than in 1984 when the Andrew campaign ran.
Prices are climbing steeply. Government financial experts discuss inflation as if it does not add to the c0mplications of being a Nigerian. They blame the global economic turmoil and credit themselves with the sagacity that saved Nigeria from being like Greece and any of the other collapsing European economies.
Enough of the unearned self praise. Governments are busy with schemes that compound the challenges of Nigerians. Food prices are up, no thanks to low storage facilities, out-dated farming practices, no incentives to farmers and the near absence of roads for evacuating products.
Anyone who survives food prices faces other price increases. Poorly delivered government services are still unaffordable, whether electricity, which the tariff keeps going up or fees in public schools.
The anguish of the Nigerian sometimes expresses itself in protests like the one on the Lekki Expressway where a private company started collecting tolls on Sunday. The assumption is that road users should be able to pay the toll (or use the alternative routes). The reality is that the toll, small as it may seem to those imposing it, is an additional cost that would translate to price increases for goods and services.
Little is being done to tackle the inflation these price increases cause. All round the Nigerian are additional costs in 2012 - vehicle registration (new vehicle plate number, new driver's licence), fuel, school fees, house rents, electricity, water, food and anything else that he would buy. He has higher chances of losing his job as the employer cuts costs.
The price increases are never marginal. Some would be triple what was paid last year. Others are entirely new, adding to the burden of being a Nigerian. How does government expect the ordinary Nigerian without access to public resources to survive these attacks on him? Has government considered the damage to the economy the higher inflation rates would cause?
Appeals to patriotic instincts are inadequate. When Nigerians are called to sacrifice the leaders show no examples. The same wastes that have made government expensive, duplication of agencies and creation of totally unnecessary ones are continuing. New bureaucracies, new committees, commissions, are set up daily to make places for friends of government. Nigerians pay more to keep more people, who do nothing, in government.
Government generates waste through political expediency and expects Nigerians to pay for it. How would the nine new federal universities address the challenges of higher education when government is unable to maintain the existing universities? If government's interests were in tandem with the peoples' it would have invested the billions of Naira new universities would cost in expanding capacities of the existing ones.
University teachers are on strike over unfulfiled terms of an agreement they reached with government three years ago. The same government has attracted more staff costs with additional universities.
Government adds to the burdens of Nigerians as it takes 'these painful decisions'. Those in government, who 'take hard decisions', must share in their consequences.